Wednesday, 11 December 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Daly: asked the Minister for the Environment if he is aware of the serious deterioration which has taken place in the structure and condition of the county and regional roads in County Clare due to a number of exceptional factors such as the provision of water supplies and the huge increase in traffic resulting from  the construction of Moneypoint power station; and if he will provide additional funding to Clare County Council to prevent the total collapse of the county road structure especially in West Clare.
Responsibility for the planning and execution of works on regional and county roads in their administrative area, including the provision of the necessary finance, rests with Clare County Council. I have, however, provided road grants totalling £1.011 million to the local authority in 1985 for improvement and maintenance works on regional roads and for improvement works on county roads. In addition, as a special measure, I have agreed to a proposal from the local authority to expend £1.027 million on the restoration of roads damaged by construction traffic associated with the West Clare regional water supply scheme. I understand also that, as a condition of planning permission for the Moneypoint project, the ESB have contributed £388,000 towards the cost of road restoration works consequent on the construction traffic associated with the development of the project.
Mr. Daly: Might I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that in spite of the fairly substantial amounts of money which he has indicated as having been notified to the local authority, there is still widespread dissatisfaction with the condition of the county roads? It has been estimated by the local authority that to put Clare county and regional roads into a reasonably satisfactory state of repair at present would cost in the region of £7 million. In relation to the Estimates being prepared for next year, would the Minister say whether special account will be taken of the serious and dangerous situation which has developed in the county  especially in west Clare in the last year or two where the whole roads structure is in danger of breakdown and will be irrepairable unless something is done urgently to deal with the situation? Further, would he be prepared to meet a deputation from Clare to discuss the issue before the Estimates are finalised for the coming year?
Mr. Quinn: Let me stress that with the 24 per cent increase on last year against a projected finalised rate of inflation this year, 1985, of no more than 5.5 per cent, the increase is substantial. In addition, £1 million, in round figures, has been provided uniquely to Clare in relation to this problem which undoubtedly exists, and on top of that £388,000 has been made a condition of planning permission to the ESB in respect of Moneypoint. For 1986 and 1985 that represents considerable progress. However, I will take note of the points the Deputy has made. With regard to the question of a deputation, as I am substituting for my colleague, the Minister for the Environment, I am not in a position to give that undertaking but I will convey the Deputy's request to him.
Mr. Daly: I know the Minister will convey this to his colleague, the Minister for the Environment, but the situation in the west Clare area in particular is now critical. Already there have been a number of very serious accidents. There is widespread concern in the locality about it——
Mr. Carey: I understand that £1.4 million additional has been given to  Clare. Has the Minister the figures available for 1983, 1984 and 1985 to illustrate whether the Department and the Minister have concern for the problem of the west Clare roads?
Mr. Quinn: I understand that in 1983 a total of £3.428 million was made available; in 1984 a sum of £2.81 million was made available and this year, as I have indicated, taking together the extra £1 million in round figures that has been made available, a sum of £4.5 million will be made available to Clare in this year.
Mr. Daly: I am aware and the Minister is aware that at present a review of the national roads plan is underway. It is under consideration that some of the investment in the national roads plan will be redirected to the county roads and will this be taken into account? There are a number of projects, one in particular, in the county for which there does not seem to be any widespread demand or any urgent necessity. I am talking about the Bunratty by-pass which will cost something in the region of £15 million and there is no widespread public demand for a scheme of that nature. On the other hand, the local community are up in arms at the state of the roads in the county when they see a Vote for which there is no public demand——
Mr. Quinn: I hesitate to comment on the priority of roads development that has been submitted by Clare County Council of whom I understand Deputy Daly is a member, but no doubt he is aware that it is the county councils who put forward in the first instance the national primary road schemes that they designate as priority. All the Department  of the Environment do is pay for them. It is the local authority, who I understand have substantial Fianna Fáil representation, who designate the priority in the first place. I am surprised to learn that they are so out of touch with local community feeling in Bunratty.
Mr. Daly: Can the Minister give us an indication whether the review of the national roads plan is under way in the Department, when it will be completed and whether it is one of the issues under consideration?
Mr. Quinn: The national roads plan will not change the relationship between local authorities on the one hand and the Department of the Environment on the other. It is for local authorities to decide what their priorities for national primary road schemes are. The Deputy is aware that the method of funding is different from that of the maintenance and upkeep of county roads which has been substantially provided for by this Government for 1985 as indicated in a reply by me to a supplementary question by Deputy Carey.
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